She Talks to Angels
Posted by Pi Beta Phi Headquarters
This post is courtesy of Dr. Mari Ann Callais. She is the Past National President of Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity and currently serves as the Senior Director of Special Initiatives for Delta Delta Delta Fraternity and a speaker for CAMPUSPEAK. Mari Ann was a keynote for Pi Beta Phi’s Convention in 2011 and 2015.
Dr. Mari Ann CallaisFor the past 9 months, I have been engrossed in Pi Phi’s concept of Sincere Friendship. As a part of the curriculum development team, I have writing the critical conversation piece on “Discovering Sincere Friendship.” Maybe it’s because I feel like I have been given the opportunity to see a bit more inside of your history, your sisterhood that something magical happened. I don’t know what happened, but for me, and I hope for those in attendance at convention, it was a special moment in time that I hope will live on.
From the moment I stepped into the magnificent ballroom at the Chicago Hilton, I knew something special was going to take place there that day. The room is truly stunning. As I looked at the flags of the Fraternity’s Council members on the stage, through the run through of my program, I had a feeling this program was going to be different. As the room began to fill with Pi Phis, the room filled with energy. The conversations, the laughter, the feeling of friendship and sisterhood filled the air.
Before my presentation, various awards were presented to alumnae clubs (I think this is what you call them 😀) for contributing to their members, the overall community, and Pi Phi in general. I sat and watched the excitement and pride they felt still giving to Pi Beta Phi and living their lifetime commitment. Then, as the room erupted, Angelica (from Pi Phi Foundation), ascended onto the stage make a very important announcement. As she began sharing how much money the convention body had contributed that weekend to the foundation, her wings, her halo, her entire angel being began to light up! Through the generosity and treasures shared by Pi Beta Phis, the Foundation raised $139,765!!!!! How amazing it was to see a committed group of women willing to give back to the organization that has and continues to give so much to them.
Convention StageNow, it was my turn! Paula began my introduction. As I walked into the stage, my presentation was not about me, but about 1,300 women in that room sharing their love for Pi Beta Phi and one another. Everyone in the audience were given glow in the dark halos and as the lights went down in the room for the opening video, all I saw were halos on everyone woman. It was as if I was in heaven with angels looking down on me (or rather up at me from the audience). The opening video began and it is about women who have done heroic acts and set to the Sara Barreilles song “Brave.” This video shows women such as Malala Yousafzai who stood up for young girls to be educated in third world countries, Gabrielle Giffords for her heroic comeback after being shot by a gunman, to women on the front lines fighting for our freedom, Edith Winsor who won a victory for equality, and the list goes on. The video is very moving and powerful and as each woman come onto the screen with the song playing in the background “I just want to see you be brave”, the audience began clapping. I had never had that happen before during any of my presentations and from that moment on, I knew it would be a special hour for all of us.
We discussed women through history and how Pi Beta Phi’s founders were truly pioneers not only on college campuses but in our development in this country. I shared how Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and Brene’ Brown’s work on vulnerability has given me to courage and empowered me to speak to women about what we need to do for ourselves and for one another. I challenged the audience to be courageous and to stand up for themselves and other other women and to bring one another along.
The entire presentation of “Stepping Up and Leaning In” is a compilation of stories from my personal and professional journey and the impact that others have had on my life and the lives of those that have shared this journey with me. I was so moved by the love, the energy of the Pi Phis in that room. I could see the faces of the women and that what I was sharing truly was resonating with them.
There is part of the presentation where I invite several random participants to join me on stage. I ask them to share when have they been told they could not do something or would not be successful at something because they were a girl or a woman. Immediately, 4 women approached the stage. They shared personal stories about empowerment and courage. The audience erupted after each story. At the end of the stories, as I was moving to the closing, the convention photographer raised her hand and asked if she could share. I handed her the microphone and she said “My brother told me I could never make a living being a photographer” and she raised her camera! The entire room went crazy! It was an amazing moment for all of us.
Mari Ann and AngelicaAs I closed thanking the Pi Beta Phi Foundation for sponsoring this program, I began playing my guitar. The song I close with is about a younger sister who takes up for her older sister who is different. “Let it go, let it, can’t hold me back anymore”, cell phones began recording our sing along to the song from Frozen, “Let it Go” began to fill the air. The angels began singing and laughing, recording the words, the emotions. Some might think it is corny, but from where I stood, it was a beautiful moment of sisters just loving being together.
I exited the stage thinking that was it. Paula went back on stage to thank me for my presentation and asked if my guitar had a name. No one had ever asked me that question before. I said no and she said “well we will call her Angel.” Now, I will always think of that guitar as angel. Sis met me as I stepped the stage and the Pi Phis sang “Angel in Disguise” to me. Sis and I served as National Presidents together so that moment will forever be special to me.
In a selfish way, I feel I received more that day that I gave. The Pi Beta Phis welcomed me in a way that I will never forget. Your hospitality, love and sincere friendship truly made Pi Beta Phi Convention “Reaching New Heights” a lasting memory for me. I hope it was for the attendees as well.